Managing Australian government retention rules in SharePoint 2010

Most of us using SharePoint 2010 know that there are two ways of managing records retention rules in SharePoint 2010 – ‘in-place’ or sending to the Records Centre/Center.

There are general reasons to use either.

  • It can be simpler to leave the records in place, in the (site) context of where they were created and managed. A site can be made read only and/or moved to another location for archiving (if required).
  • It may make more sense for performance and access reasons to move documents from a site to the Records Centre for longer-term storage.

In the Australian government context (at all three levels, Federal, State/Territory and Local), there are (generally speaking) three broad types of retention periods that can be applied to records:

  • Normal Administrative Practice, or NAP. Without the ability for end users to destroy ‘ephemeral’ records there would be no delete key on a keyboard.
  • Keep for a temporary period (which may range from 6 months to 100 years or so)
  • Keep permanently, which usually means transfer to an archival institution after a given period, after which the records become publicly accessible (unless restrictions apply).

‘In place’ records management suits the requirements of NAP, as long as users (generally known as ‘Contributors’) are allowed to delete records (which is not the same thing as having a delete key!). It also may suit records that have retention requirements of less than 5 – 7 years.

However, in most (or all?) Australian governments, records should not be destroyed without some form of review process – even if that review process is based on a summary of the contents of a network drive that can be destroyed. That is, no-one is seriously likely to go through and open every document to confirm they can be destroyed (but they might!).

There are two logical ways to manage retention rules for Australian government records kept in SharePoint 2010.

The first is to create a document-based, ‘non record’, Content Type that that has a two-part retention:

  • As long as the Content Type is not declared a record, it will be destroyed, on site, after a given period set by the agency, without review.
  • If it is declared a record by a user, a second retention period takes over and either keeps the record in place or sends it to the records centre after a given period. This model assumes users will know what it means to declare something a record (a particularly US type of action).

The second is to create a document-based, ‘non record’, Content Type that has a two-stage retention policy:

  • For records that must be kept for less than 7 years, the first stage of the retention policy starts a workflow review process after the minimum retention period OR sends it to the Records Centre for review.
  • For records that must be kept for 7 years or more, the first stage of the retention policy sends the document to the Records Centre. Once it reaches the Records Centre, the Content Type is routed to the correct part of the Records Centre File Plan (based on the Business Classification Scheme), creates a new folder automatically if required, and applies the correct long-term retention requirement to the folder, overriding the Content Type-based retention rule.

Whichever model you use, plan ahead carefully.  Trying to fix these things retrospectively could be an unpleasant experience.



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